The Bovine Overlord- Cabal tournament report: Street Level Violence 14Apr2024

Last weekend I attended a Marvel Crisis Protocol event down in Protech Games (in Stockton) with a bit of a twist. The theme was ‘street level characters’ and so no-one with a threat higher than 4 could be taken in any rosters. This seemed like an interesting format – and anyway, I like to play games so it’s not exactly a hardship – so Joe and I piled into Allan’s car to head down to participate.

This format obviously effectively excludes any faction with a 5+ threat leader so I clearly wasn’t going to be going for leaderless Inhumans. In my opinion some factions are highly advantaged in this format, partly because their power pieces fit into it, and partly because their natural predators are not present. I was fully expecting to see big successes from Guardians, Wakanda and Web Warriors, and I also thought that X-Men were likely to be around in high numbers simply because they fit nicely into this format and they’re the new hotness after the release of Professor X et al. I did briefly consider playing Wakanda myself but decided that I wasn’t really excited to play them and just left them behind. Instead I took a Cabal roster led by the new Red Skull (Master of the World) by removing the high threat characters from a roster I’d been tinkering with as a chassis for Shadow King. That roster had rather been based around moving the other team and generally being a pain to work into, but as I removed pieces I realised that it had just become a roster of characters that I find entertaining. Mystique and Mysterio both being affiliated makes me very happy and in the end I just figured I would see how I got on without worrying too much about min-maxing a roster that I would only really use here.

Characters (10)
Red Skull, Master of the World (4)
Mystique (3)
Mysterio (3)
Crossbones, Merciless Merc (3)
Enchantress (4)
Skurge, The Executioner (3)
Bullseye (2)
Baron Zemo (3)
Rhino (4)
X-23 (3)

Team Tactics (10)
Dark Reign
Deception (R)
The Grand Illusion
Brace for Impact (R)
Meet My Executioner
Cosmic Obliteration
Mission Objective
I Am A Baron, After All
This is a Robbery
X-Ceptional Healing

Secure Crisis
Infinity Formula Goes Missing! (B, 17)
Super-Powered Scoundrels Form Sinister Syndicate (F, 20)
Gamma Wave Sweeps Across Midwest (E, 15)

Extract Crisis
Struggle For The Cube Continues (F, 17)
Spider-Infected Invade Manhattan (F, 17)
The Montesi Formula Found (E, 18)

Game 1: Nigel playing Winter Guard

The first game puts me up with Nigel, also travelling to the North East for gaming though in his case from Stockport. We have met at least one other time but I haven’t had the pleasure of playing him until now. I’ve hardly ever played against Winter Guard in events but my record against them in casual play is pretty abysmal. I win the roll-off choose my Secures, though I probably wouldn’t have minded too much the other way round either. Since we’re basically going to be having a scrum in the middle of the board I go for both Mysterio and Crossbones; the two slowest characters in the game. Hopefully they won’t have to move too far!

Extraction: The Montesi Formula Found
Secure: Gamma Wave Sweeps Across Midwest
Threat: 18
My team: Red Skull Master of the World, Baron Zemo, Bullseye, Crossbones Merciless Merc, Mysterio, Mystique
My cards: Brace For Impact, Cosmic Obliteration, Dark Reign, Deception, The Grand Illusion
Nigel’s team: Crimson Dynamo, Black Widow, Ursa Major, Winter Soldier Operative, Logan The Wolverine
Nigel’s cards: Brace For Impact, Mission Objective, Patch Up, Sovereign Strike, X-Ceptional Healing

Round 1: I don’t have any safe extracts, but then again neither does Nigel. In the end I figure I’ll just send up Crossbones on the basis that he’s quite tough and collect the central book. Otherwise I want to pull back to my side of the board and ideally kidnap someone using Deception at a key moment. Crossbones collects the middle book, and Winter Soldier shoots him to no effect while collecting his own. Bullseye picks up the last book and settles himself on my home secure. Ursa Major waddles forward and Mystique uses Deception to move him into no-man’s-land on my side of the board, shooting him rather ineffectually for good measure. Black Widow comes in to contest the centre, and Mysterio fails to hurt Ursa Major at all. Crimson Dynamo puts shock on Crossbones and goes into the middle. Zemo and Red Skull both try to hurt Ursa Major but start what will be a day-long story of me using the Red Skull leadership but still failing to do any damage, thus removing what little power I had available. The score is 3 – 3.

Round 2: We’re committed to the brawl here so I need to minimise the impact that Black Widow and Winter Soldier can have, and then start to work over Nigel’s team that are in my reach. Crimson Dynamo puts Shock on Zemo then jumps to zep him again along with Mysterio and Red Skull. He finishes up by paying for Patch Up on Ursa Major which leaves him quite dry on power. Crossbones pays for Dark Reign on Crimson Dynamo in case I lose him early, then clears Shock and beams Black Widow and Winter Soldier (not ideal but there weren’t any neat lines going the other way) before Mysterio pays for The Grand Illusion. Logan smacks the hell out of Mystique but his beam is heavily blunted by The Grand Illusion. Red Skull bounces off Crimson Dynamo even with Dark Reign and teleports Logan out of my way before Ursa Major has a fairly ineffective turn into Mysterio. He and Mystique join up to daze Crimson Dynamo and Winter Soldier leaves Crossbones on one; Black Widow polishes him off and collects his book. Zemo goes into Winter Soldier but can’t do much damage. The score goes to 6 – 6.

Turn 3: The priority here is to drop Crimson Dynamo as he’s in a great position to stymie basically everything I want to do. I also need to relieve Black Widow and Winter Soldier of their books. Winter Soldier starts us out by using the book to beam Zemo and Crossbones. Despite being unable to explode Criticals or reroll, Nigel rolls a perfect 12 successes from 12 dice and I roll zero blocks on either character, losing them both in one go. Mysterio mildly inconveniences Crimson Dynamo before going down to Bleed (He was going down either way and I wanted to get more use out of him first). Crimson Dynamo dazes Mystique and Red Skull, leaving me with just Bullseye. There’s not a lot he’s going to do so I just have him pop a couple of damage into Crimson Dynamo to soften him up for next turn before Ursa Major dazes him. Nigel scores the maximum to take it to 13 – 6.

Turn 4: Wow, that was a pasting like I haven’t had in a while. I’ll be lucky to pull this back but basically the plan is the same as last turn – deal with Crimson Dynamo and try to get some of these books back. Red Skull finishes off Crimson Dynamo, then Winter Soldier one-shots Zemo. Mystique drops Ursa Major and collects his book, then Black Widow comes uses her book to beam both Mystique and Mysterio. Nigel rolls another perfect roll (so that’s 24 success from 24 so far) but I do at least make some blocks this time and they do survive. Bullseye finally dazes Winter Soldier, Logan puts some damage around my team but I get lucky and only Mystique gets Koed and then Mysterio goes to work on Logan, moving him away from the scoring points. The score goes to 15 – 9 to Nigel.

Turn 5: I’ll basically need a miracle here in that I need to stop Nigel scoring at all, so my priority has to be to daze Black Widow. Wolverine goes into Bullseye and Mysterio dazes him with Tricks and Traps on the place. Mysterio then rolls a ridiculous set of dice to one-shot Winter Soldier. Ironically I needed him to survive on one so I could get a move from Tricks and Traps to be in range of Black Widow, who happily legs it for the corner where I can’t get to her. We finish at 16 – 15 to Nigel.

Wow, that was a hell of a game. Nigel’s turn 3 (and his dice on the Montesi Formula books in general) just completely broke my back and I was in some ways quite pleased to get it back to being so close. In retrospect I could have made better use of Crossbones in turn 2; he should have attacked Crimson Dynamo instead of some fairly inconsequential damage on the two characters at the back. Hopefully we can meet across the table again!

Game 2: John playing Cabal

In general I prefer not to have mirror-matches as I enjoy the diversity of factions in the game, so it was inevitable that I would end up playing the only other Cabal player at the event! Fortunately John was playing a rather different roster from me which was much more focused on just killing everything in sight so it seemed unlikely that we’d face the spectre of playing the exact same teams into each other. John won the roll off and picked his Secures, and I went for the slightly higher threat mainly because we were already out of the running for the event and I wanted to play more of my toys.

Extraction: Struggle For The Cube Continues
Secure: Demons Downtown! Has Our Comeuppance Come Due?
Threat: 19
My team: Red Skull Master of the World, Bullseye, Crossbones Merciless Merc, Enchantress, Mysterio, Mystique
My cards: Cosmic Obliteration, Dark Reign, Deception, Mission Objective, The Grand Illusion
John’s team: Red Skull Master of the World, Baron Mordo, Baron Zemo, Hood, Elektra, Nebula
John’s cards: Dark Reign, Hood’s Gang, I Am A Baron After All, Mission Objective, Vendetta

Round 1: Again neither of us have a safe central grab so my plan is to leave the centre and see how well John can play around Deception. I don’t particularly want to get involved in a brawl right in the middle so hopefully I can drag the main fight over to my side of the board where I can leverage Bullseye, who is definitely planning to sit on the back point all game. Hood and Bullseye take the left Cubes, then Mordo moves on the rear point and uses Master Of The Occult so he can be a battery for Red Skull later. My Red Skull takes the near right Cube and moves back to the middle. Elektra comes to the middle (but for some reason doesn’t take) the centre Cube after her Ninjas pick up the one on the back right. This leaves her in range for Enchantress to Siren’s Call her forward and into my clutches. John then makes a really clever play where he brings Red Skull forward and teleports Elektra back to safety using the power that Mordo just generated – I didn’t see that coming at all. Mystique mostly bounces off Red Skull and Zemo picks up the final Cube fragment. Nebula comes for Mystique but, as is tradition, leaves her on a single wound. The score is 5 – 3 to John.

Round 2: If I just leave this all to play out then I’ll eventually lose so I need to either leverage the attrition side of my game or start pushing people around. I have tools for both but in a Cabal vs Cabal match the only true choice is to fight. Red Skulls dazes Mystique easily and then teleports Crossbones far out of the fight. Mysterio moves Elektra away and then rolls quite nicely to finish off John’s Red Skull. Zemo charges in and almost takes out Enchantress in one go before retreating back to safety. I pretty much have to use her then and she makes me proud, dazing Nebula and Siren’s Calling Mordo further away. Hood comes in but can’t finish off Enchantress as his attacks are stuck on her best defence type. My Red Skull teleports into the action and dazes Hood, collecting his Cube in the process. The Ninjas hand their Cube to Zemo (they would have died to the Cube damage at the end of the turn anyway) and Elektra dazes my Red Skull and picks up both of his tokens. Bullseye drops her in turn but can’t get her Cubes back; this tempts Mordo to come in for them but he gets dazed by a timely Tricks and Traps from Mysterio. Crossbones saunters back into the fight and picks up a bunch of these Cubes that are just lying around on the ground. John stays in the lead at 7 – 6.

Round 3: Not having priority here is going to be a problem because a lot of my characters are looking extremely fragile. If I can keep Mysterio up until my turn I can put out The Grand Illusion which will catch almost the entire game and between that and Dark Reign I might be able to get enough of an attrition lead that I can just ride this out to the end. Mordo pays for Dark Reign on Red Skull, then boosts Hood’s attack roll – the resulting Empowered Dark Lightning KOs Red Skull and dazes Enchantress and Bullseye. The latter does manage to Mission Objective one Extract over to Mystique, who then pays for Dark Reign on Elektra while Mysterio puts up The Grand Illusion. Crossbones lets rip with some epic attacks, KOing Hood and Elektra and leaving Mordo clinging on; he also moves onto the central objective with Hit and Run and collects a Cube so not a bad activation at all. Mystique follows up by KOing the other Red Skull. In the meantime Nebula fails to do much of anything to Crossbones or Mystique. Mysterio KOs Mordo and puts a little damage into Nebula. Zemo plays his card, zooms up and dazes Crossbones before KOing Mystique which is rather impressive. The score goes to 10 – 6 in John’s favour.

Round 4: I might be way down on points but I’m way up on attrition and I have priority at last. Enchantress collects all three cubes lying at her feet, Siren’s Calls Nebula next to Zemo for a neat beam and then zaps them both, KOing the former and leaving Zemo on one wound. He hurts Enchantress and KOs Bullseye out of spite, then Crossbones KOs him to end the game. The score remains at 10 – 6 but I get the win.

Thanks John for a really fun game. It was entertaining to play a game where we were both aiming for murder but went really wide, and I learned a few interesting tricks from watching John use Red Skull. Ultimately the dice favoured me, but I was able to leverage my beams to get more damage out than John’s team. Plus I got very fortunate on the turn I played The Grand Illusion as it felt like John rolled a lot of Critical results. The game felt like ‘good clean MCP’ without much in the way of jank and instead everyone just fighting each other.

Game 3: Tony playing Wakanda

For this game I finally got to play against legendary Element TO Tony Moore packing Wakanda. I was not surprised to see a lot of Wakanda rosters around – they’re really strong even in an open format never mind in this ‘street level’ version of the game. I win priority and choose my Secures and Tony chooses the higher threat. The game on this set up is basically going to be about who can get the central objective and leg it over to their chosen side quickest, as that will split the other team and force them to chase. I pick Rhino because his mobility and his card will help with the plan in general, and he also loves the extra power from Infinity Formula. I also put down X-23 mainly just to get her a run out; she could have been Skurge just as easily.

Extraction: Deadly Legacy Virus Cured?
Secure: Infinity Formula Goes Missing!
Threat: 19
My team: Red Skull Master of the World, Baron Zemo, Bullseye, Mystique, Rhino, X-23
My cards: Brace For Impact, Dark Reign, Deception, This Is A Robbery, X-Ceptional Healing
Tony’s team: M’Baku (leader), Black Panther, Killmonger, Shuri, Gamora
Tony’s cards: Advanced R&D, Jabari Chieftain, Spirit Of Wakanda, Usurp The Throne, Wakanda Forever

Round 1: Tony’s deployment makes it clear that he’s planning to largely refuse my left side, so I should do the same in return. Ideally I want to take at least two of the Extracts and then retreat over to my left side. I start out with Bullseye, as he can sometimes get away from early pressure with Parting Shot and also because he ended up deployed over there early. Gamora plays Advanced R&D so Shuri can play Spirit Of Wakanda and turbocharge Tony’s whole team. Zemo takes the central Cure and Killmonger helpfully bounces off Bullseye (though I also wouldn’t have minded getting a mild beating so he could get out of further danger). X-23 picks up the final cure over on the left. M’Baku comes for Zemo and hurts him so Mystique comes up and uses Deception to displace him somewhere I could attack him. Shuri pushes Zemo then Red Skull gives M’Baku a mild Shock in return and teleports Zemo further away – seeing John do that in our previous game made me think of that move. Black Panther crosses almost the entire board and plays Wakanda Forever, annoyingly getting the damage through to daze Zemo. M’Baku also drops Bullseye from this free attack. Rhino bounces ineffectively off Black Panther and the score is an enormous 2 – 1 in favour of Tony.

Round 2: There are two tokens on the ground so I guess I’ll be picking up whichever one Tony doesn’t grab and then running to my left. Black Panther collects the one on the left and legs it back toward his team. Bullseye picks up the one he’d been holding before and then moves considerably more slowly towards the left. M’Baku throws some terrain into Bullseye which I rather reluctantly Brace, then hits him and Bullseye uses Parting Shot to get further away. X-23 ‘passes’ my turn by just walking up to the top left Secure. Gamora drops Bullseye and then Mystique pays for Dark Reign on her and puts a fairly disappointing volley into her. Killmonger leaves Mystique on a single wound, then Red Skull teleports himself over, finishes off dazing Gamora (and collects her token) then teleports Killmonger away again and moves back toward my left. The score is 5 – 4 to Tony.

Round 3: The plan here basically remains the same – get two of the Extracts over to my left side and hope that the Wakandans have to over extend trying to get them back. This plan immediately goes awry when Gamora drops both Red Skull and Mystique with a single attack (in fairness, Mystique only had one wound remaining but I was a bit annoyed to see Red Skull drop yet again to a 6 dice attack from full health), collects the fallen token and runs away. I pass and Tony makes (in my opinion) an error in attacking Rhino with Shuri, powering him up nicely and giving me two Aggressive moves across the board. He KOs Gamora using This Is A Robbery to pick off her last wound, which still felt worth it, and then runs and Stampedes away. Killmonger goes after him but will only get a single attack, albeit powered up by Jabari Chieftain and Usurp The Throne – luckily the dice don’t go insane for once and he only picks off 4 damage leaving my big chap alive. M’Baku finishes him off throwing Rhino into X-23 for good measure and she helpfully rolls zero blocks and obliges me to play X-Ceptional Healing. Zemo dazes Killmonger and Black Panther crosses the entire board yet again and dazes X-23 after she fails to roll any blocks one more time. The score is 7 – 6 with Tony in the lead.

Round 4: I’m very rapidly running out of pieces here as Tony is just deleting my team whenever he makes an attack roll. On the other hand, both M’Baku and Black Panther are quite badly mauled and I can probably bring them both down this turn to swing the attrition more in my favour. Rhino starts out by dazing both of the Wakandan leaders between his attacks and throws, the collects the fall Extract. Killmonger continues his rather uninspiring run by failing to finish off X-23 and she puts some nice damage back into him. Tony uses his pass so Zemo finishes off Killmonger to my very great relief. Shuri crosses the board to bring in some reroll support and Red Skull hurts her and teleports her away. The score goes to 11 – 7 to me.

Round 5: There is going to be a mighty hit back here and I’m likely to lose at least Rhino, but overall my plan is to run away with all the tokens and try to see the game out. M’Baku goes absolutely wild, KOing all three of Red Skull, Rhino and X-23 in a single activation; this isn’t helped by my failure to roll even a single successful block on any of the defence or dodge rolls. Zemo fails to hurt Black Panther and retreats to the back left point; in retrospect I wonder if he would have been better just crossing the board to the right side instead. Black Panther collects the tokens lying on the floor and goes after Zemo but can’t KO him. Shuri and Mystique move to sit on the right side points. The score is now 15 – 11 to me.

Round 6: I need to keep Zemo alive and basically that is it. He runs as fast as his little legs will carry him away from Black Panther. Everyone else shuffles their feet and finally the king comes to get the baron. Zemo has three wounds remaining so I need to block at least one of the Pounce damage, and my dodge rolls this game have been uninspiring to say the least. Luckily the dice favour Zemo this time and he survives on one, sealing the game at 16 – 14.

Wow, that could have been the tightest game I’ve ever played. Tony is a great opponent and I really enjoyed finally being able to play into him. I think if I were to have my time again I would have not even contested the token on the right and instead used Bullseye to pick up the central one; that might have kept him or Zemo in the game for longer at the start of the match and given me a chance to do some more damage to Tony’s team in the early rounds. Overall this was the perfect game in that every move felt relevant and either of us could have taken the win right up to literally the final dice rolls.

Game 4: Chris playing Web Warriors

I have to admit that I expected there to be a lot more Web Warriors around but I think that Chris was the only one in the end. Luckily for me we got my Secures (and my priority) and even more luckily we ended up with the one that Webs like least. I was quite tempted to just use both of the slow people again but decided that I’d spend a good chunk of the game repositioning myself so chose to play Baron Zemo over Crossbones.

Extraction: Paranoia Pummels Populace!
Secure: Gamma Wave Sweeps Across Midwest
Threat: 15
My team: Red Skull Master of the World, Baron Zemo, Bullseye, Mysterio, Mystique
My cards: Brace For Impact, Cosmic Obliteration, Dark Reign, Deception, The Grand Illusion
Chris’s team: Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Black Cat, Ghost Spider, Spectacular Spider-Man, Lizard
Chris’s cards: All Webbed Up, Aunt May’s Wheat Cakes, Brace For Impact, Escort To Safety, The Cat And The Spider

Round 1: I want to try to get two of the Paranoia tokens here and hopefully use Mystique to Deception one of the Web Warriors into my core for an early attrition lead. Bullseye starts us out by taking the token on the right and then Black Cat uses The Cat And The Spider to grab one of the central ones and retreat. Zemo goes to the left and Lizard picks up the final token in the middle. Mystique uses Deception to pull him so Ghost Spider moves to give an option on Life Saver for Lizard. Red Skull teleports the big scientist to the back of my lines and safely away from his friends and eventually Mysterio leaves him on a single wound where the Gamma damage will finish him off. The score is 5 – 3 to Chris.

Round 2: My priority this turn is to deal with Lizard and avoid giving up too much else. Red Skull starts us out by failing to do any damage at all to Lizard, and also loses himself a power because he used his own leadership but didn’t gain anything from the attack. SSM dazes Bullseye and picks up his token and then Mysterio does just a single point of damage to Lizard. In return Lizard halves Mysterio’s health and throws him away and I follow-up with Mystique also failing to do any damage to Lizard, so that’s 6 attack actions for a net gain of zero damage because Healing Factor removed the one that Mysterio managed. Spider-Man uses Web Swing and offs Zemo in a single attack and Ghost Spider pushes and pulls Red Skull and Mystique around while also playing Aunt May’s Wheat Cakes to remove the incidental damage from the scenario on Chris’s affiliated models. The score is 11 – 5 now.

Round 3: Well, that was a pretty awful turn for me. I guess the initial plan is the same (deal with Lizard) but now I also need to somehow score a lot of points and stop the best scenario team in the game from seeing this out. Mysterio does finally polish off Lizard after the big guy stops rolling 3 blocks for every attack, then SSM one-shots Bullseye with his builder. Zemo gets revenge on Spider-Man by charging past to block Life Saver and dazing him. Black Cat effectively passes her turn again as she’s quite happy and safe where she is. Mystique fails to do any damage to Ghost Spider and then in return Ghost Spider rolls just as badly on Zemo. Red Skull does finally daze Ghost Spider but can’t hurt SSM. The score goes to 14 – 9.

Round 4: I don’t actually think it’s even possible for me to stop Chris winning this round so I decide to just go for as much damage as I can put out. SSM pays for All Webbed Up and Spider-Man KOs Baron Zemo easily. Mystique puts Dark Reign on Ghost Spider and Red Skull puts out Incinerate with Cosmic Obliteration then uses his spender in the hope of getting some extra attacks and dealing some damage to the Webs team but even with full re-rolls I can’t get the trigger so although at least Ghost Spider goes down that’s all I can do. SSM takes down Mystique from full health in one go and Mysterio can’t finish off Spider-Man even through the Incinerate, though it wasn’t really affecting anything anyway. We finish up at 19 – 12 to Chris.

Thanks to Chris for a fun game and I hope that we can try this again at some point where I put up a better show. I had the wrong approach right from the start going for the edge Paranoia tokens as the combination of Gamma Shelters meant that it was doing a load of needless damage to both Bullseye and Zemo. On the other hand, the dice basically made it so it didn’t actually matter much anyway. Chris played a solid game without notable errors and I’m only sorry that I didn’t really push him hard to do something cool. One aspect of my play that I was quite pleased about was playing around Life Saver and Escort To Safety. It’s not really easy to write about positioning for that stuff but Chris didn’t get to use either of them all game… on the other hand, I never did enough damage to anyone to actually matter.

When the scores are in I’m 11th of 28 which is quite good for a 2 – 2 result. Both of my losses were quite winnable, but in fairness both of my wins were quite losable too so overall that’s a pretty fair representation of how I played. Next up is a team tournament where I’m back to Inhumans, albeit with some roster changes to fit that format. Thanks to Nigel, John, Tony and Chris for four very fun games of MCP, and of course to Anth for doing all the hard work to run this whole show.

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